Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

What future for Pembrokeshire?

Published

on

andrew-rt-daviesWhen the Welsh Government commissioned former NHS Wales CEO Sir Paul Williams to report on public governance in Wales, it made a low key announcement of what now appears to be a scheme for the root and branch reform of the way councils and other public bodies deliver services. In January, when the Williams Commission delivered its draft report, it recommended that the number of local councils in Wales be cut, claiming that there would be massive cost savings in reducing the number of Welsh authorities from 22 to 12 or fewer. At the time, even Labour AM’s were taken aback by the scope of the reorganisation. Lynne Neagle, who represents Torfaen, which would be merged with Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly under the plans, said in January: “For me, the overriding question that remains unanswered, is where the reducing the numbers of local authorities, particularly at this time, is the panacea for delivering that kind of change – especially when on reading this report, it often feels like the Commission started from the point of saying we need to cut the numbers of councils and then worked backwards, rather than keeping all options on the table.” Having published its response to the Williams Commission on July 8, it is certain that the Welsh Labour Government is determined to plough on and accept the Williams Commission’s recommendations whether or not there is cross-party consensus – or even consensus within Welsh Labour – as to their implementation. As First Minister Carwyn Jones made clear before ramming through the reorganisation of the Welsh NHS in the face of widespread public opposition: “No change is not an option.” After publishing its White Paper, the Welsh Government now seeks public responses to its threat to tear up local government in Wales and impose a new structure, the Pembrokeshire Herald asks whether its public consultation on the proposals is just a sham – a fig leaf to cover their embarrassment when the public realise what changes will entail. Announcing the Welsh Labour Government’s endorsement of the Williams Commission’s recommendation, the First Minister said: “The Commission’s report presented a number of options in terms of a map of merged authorities, but made it clear the decision was for the Welsh Government. I currently believe the first model described by the Commission, which suggests 12 local authorities, provides a coherent overall approach and strikes a balance between building organisational capacity and ensuring local democratic responsiveness. “It is my view that the Commission made a convincing argument that the boundaries of merged local authorities should align with health board and police force boundaries in order to best support collaborative service delivery on that basis. There would have to be exceptional circumstances in order to move away from this principle.” In Pembrokeshire, fears have been expressed that the proposals will lead to a return to the old Dyfed County Council. We spoke to veteran Carmarthenshire Council leader Kevin Madge who asked: “Why go back to what didn’t work? People thought that Dyfed was too far away, too remote from them and their communities. The Welsh Government has not got agreement from local government leaders on this at all and there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge first. “We have a general election next year, Assembly elections in 2016 and a round of local government elections in 2017. Elections are unpredictable things and I would say that the reorganisation the Welsh Government want is not a done deal. “I am deputy leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, and I would say that the only way forward is to have a proper dialogue between the 22 leaders of local government in Wales and the Welsh ministers. So far, we have not had that. “Let’s look at the suggestion that costs will be cut and savings made. Well, I suppose there might be savings at top levels, but people still need their councils to deliver important daily services. I am concerned that service jobs, which are already under pressure, will be cut and councils will no longer be able to deliver vital services to its communities. “The cost of reorganisation will be £300m to £400m. How will that be funded? That’s the question. I do not think that the people will accept that money being taken out of the budget to deliver services to them.” He pauses a moment and responds to a question about service reductions: “The cuts we are having now are deeper than any of those we experienced in the 80s and 90s under Thatcher. But the cuts now being imposed are on a much smaller base than those were. Things are tough already and it is difficult to see where further cuts can be made without damaging frontline services.” On Council Tax, Mr Madge had even more misgivings: “Pembrokeshire has low Council tax. The rates of Council tax would have to be brought into line across merged authorities. How could that be done? In current higher Council Tax areas, would it go down? If so, how would you make up the shortfall? In lower Council Tax areas, it would need to go up. It’s a minefield to sort out. Frontline services will suffer.” “As for savings, I was a Councillor in 1996 when the last reorganisation took place. Any new structure will take five to eight years to ‘bed in’ and it could take eight to ten years for a new authority to fully get to grips with things. Things won’t improve overnight. Reorganization is not a magic wand.” On the opposite side of the political fence, there is agreement with Kevin Madge’s position. Simon Hart MP told us: “I have got pretty serious misgivings about losing a local authority for Pembrokeshire. After all, we were all relieved when we reverted from Dyfed County Council. However it should be possible to share costs, some services and purchasing contracts (as is the case already in certain parts of London) with other authorities, without losing our County identity and knowledge. The more local the Council, the more accountable we can make it.” And his views were echoed by local AM Paul Davies: “I have some serious concerns that local identities of areas across Wales will be swallowed up in mergers and so any tinkering with local authorities’ boundaries must be fully consulted upon and they need to incorporate an accurate cost/benefit analysis. “Pembrokeshire residents currently enjoy low council taxes and if we returned to the old Dyfed model, as suggested by the Williams Commission, I’m given to understand that council tax could rise by 26%. This would undoubtedly worry my constituents and so any moves to change boundaries must take on board the effects of council tax rises for hard-pressed people living in Pembrokeshire. “The Pembrokeshire brand is synonymous across the globe with tourism and food produce. We need to do everything we can to protect the Pembrokeshire brand, which could be lost under these merger plans. Many people fought long and hard against the old Dyfed model and so we must not lose Pembrokeshire in the Welsh Government’s drive to centralisation across Wales.” Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew R T Davies told the Herald: “Welsh Labour made no reference to these plans to restructure local government in their 2011 Assembly manifesto and have no democratic mandate to do so. “We will closely monitor any proposals that Welsh Labour bring forward and fight to ensure that small authorities retain a strong voice in local government. “Ultimately it would be a very sad day for democracy in Wales if local government reform leads communities to feel greater disconnect with their councils.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News

Pembroke: Leave teenage girls alone, sex offender told

Published

on

A SEX OFFENDER from Ashdale Lane, Pembroke has been jailed for repeatedly ignoring court orders which were put in place to protect young girls.
Gareth Thomas James Flynn, aged 41, frightened a 14-year-old girl who refused to get off a bus in case he managed to find out where she lived.
41-year-old Gareth Thomas James Flynn scared a 14-year-old girl because she refused to get of a bus, frightened he would learn her address.
He admitted breaching a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and was jailed today for a year.
Sitting at Swansea Crown Court, Judge Geraint Walters berated the defendant.  His Honour said that Flynn had shown a complete disregard for the original SHPO.
The judge said: “Leave teenage girls alone. They are scared of you”
He told Flynn he would be on licence for 12 months after his release from prison, and he reminded him that the SHPO remained in place.

Continue Reading

News

Narberth: ‘My mum’s camper was stolen and found burned out down the road’

Published

on

A CAMPER VAN stolen on Thursday night in Narberth was found burned a short distance from where it was parked, the owner’s son has said.

Zachary Bunce posted an appeal on Facebook on Friday morning saying: “Can every single one of my friends please share this my mother’s Ford transit campervan was stolen last night in the Narberth area can people please be on the lookout for this van as my mother is completely heartbroken.”

But three hours later he updated the post to say: “Thank you everyone who shared, sadly my mums van was driven 1.3 miles down the road and driven into a ditch and burnt it out.

Mr Bunce has said on that the incident has been captured on CCTV, and took place at 2.10am in the morning (Jan 24).
Anyone with any information should contact the police on 101.

Continue Reading

News

Hook: Police and school confirm death of boy, 13

Published

on

POLICE are investigating the sudden death of a 13-year-old boy from Hook on Wednesday (Jan 22)

A police spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 13-year-old boy, from the Hook area of Pembrokeshire.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious at this time. Next of kin have been advised and are being supported.”

A letter was sent out to parents and carers by Haverfordwest High VC School headteacher Jane Harries following the death. The letter reads: “It is with great sadness that I have to inform you about the sudden death of a year nine pupil at our school.

“The children in Year nine were told this morning by myself and other pupils were told by their teachers during their lesson this afternoon. The full detail surrounding the death are not known at this stage – but children have been reassured that this is something that does not happen very often. Your child may or may not want to talk bout it, but it is likely that he/she will need your special care, attention and reassurance at this difficult time.

“We are deeply affected by the death, but we are trying, for the children’s sake, to keep the school as normal as possible over the coming days, whilst allowing the children opportunities to talk about the pupil if they wish to. Trained support staff and counsellors are helping to support us through this difficult time. If you feel that your child needs extra support, please let us know.

“Our thoughts are with the pupil’s family at this difficult time, and the whole school community sends them our sincerest sympathy and support. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s achievement leader, or Miss Thomas, pastoral support manager. Paul Lucas, chairman of the governing body at Haverfordwest High VC School, said: “The governors are shocked at the tragic loss of this young student. The family are in our thoughts at this very sad time.”

Continue Reading
News2 days ago

Narberth: ‘My mum’s camper was stolen and found burned out down the road’

A CAMPER VAN stolen on Thursday night in Narberth was found burned a short distance from where it was parked,...

Community2 days ago

Dairy challenges Pembrokeshire kids to win £1,000 for their school

ECO-FRIENDLY kids in Pembrokeshire are being urged to get creative with recycling and win their school £1,000. The call comes...

News2 days ago

Hook: Police and school confirm death of boy, 13

POLICE are investigating the sudden death of a 13-year-old boy from Hook on Wednesday (Jan 22) A police spokesman told...

News3 days ago

No action at Cardiff Airport over virus

THERE were no checks or screening at Cardiff airport this morning (Jan 23) as international concern continues to grow about...

Education5 days ago

No opt-out for learning about religion, relationships and sexuality

PARENTS will not be able to prevent their children from learning about religion, relationships and sexuality in the new curriculum....

Business5 days ago

Air Link Wales now flying from Haverfordwest

AVIATION company Flitestar Private Air have launched their new Air Link Wales Programme connecting Haverfordwest, Caernarfon and Cardiff with other...

News5 days ago

Pizza chain serves up new jobs

THIRTY new jobs have been created with the opening of a national pizza chain in Haverfordwest. Domino’s opened its new...

News5 days ago

Chopper crew helps to rescue surfer at Freshwater West

A WINDSURFER who got into difficulty was rescued from Freshwater West by rescue services on Sunday (Jan 19). HM Coastguard...

News6 days ago

Luke Evans to lead new ITV drama ‘The Pembrokeshire Murders’

MURDER MYSTERY and The Alienist star Luke Evans is to lead an ITV crime drama focused on west Wales. The...

Community6 days ago

Marisa celebrates in style with Chatty Man Alan Carr

A Slimming World Consultant from Whitland celebrated their group’s success by meeting chat show host and comedian, Alan Carr. Alan,...

Popular This Week